Have you ever noticed that all of the serious problems in a woman’s life start with the word men? Menstruation, menopause, mental illness… Well, maybe we can’t blame those things on men, but here are a few comments women often make about men. They fall into two distinct categories: minor annoyances and genuine frustrations.
When we were dating, most of us had no idea our future husbands would…
· use the last of the toilet paper and not replace it
· leave crumbs and pieces of chips on the sofa every night
· leave their dirty underwear all over the bedroom and bathroom
· make their towels smell like a toxic waste dump
· let their toothpaste squirt out on the counter and leave it there
· take three minutes to gulp down dinners we’ve spent hours to prepare
· say, “Huh?” when we’ve finished pouring out our hearts
· think we don’t hear them (or smell them) pass a little gas
· believe that all these things are cute
· ________________________________ (fill in the blank)
If you’re like me, this “cute” behavior drives you up a wall. But through the years, I have learned that I have to be careful when I respond to minor annoyances. And remember, these are minor annoyances. Very few hills are worth dying on, and I can assure you, none of the things I’ve mentioned above make that short list. If you’re hung up here, hold on because the water gets a lot deeper.
What’s a Woman to Do?
Ladies, we have three options.
Option one. We can try to ignore what our husbands are doing and hope that somehow, with time, they will magically change. I’ve known lots of girls who thought that sloppy men who lived in close proximity with them would somehow change through the process of osmosis. Unfortunately, that’s not going to happen. I know. I tried it, and it doesn’t work. Tim needed more than osmosis or a fairy’s wand. Silence and magic are poor problem-solving tools, but countless women try them every day.
Option two. Most of us use this one — we nag. We think that if we tell them enough times, roll our eyes enough, and sigh enough, they will change. When saying it nicely doesn’t work, we ratchet up the noise with a demanding tone of voice or pitiful pleading. Quite often, guys can’t stand it. They give in and do what we ask them to do — for a day or a week or maybe even a month, but not for long. Not surprisingly, they resent us nagging them, and they become passive-aggressive or totally resistant. Our threats, demands, pleas, and other forms of nagging may have short-term benefits, but they always come at a steep long-term cost. Several times in the book of Proverbs, Solomon shares advice like this to men: “Better to live on a corner of the roof than share a house with a quarrelsome wife” (Proverbs 21:9).
Don’t be misled. When a man feels obliged to acquiesce to the demands of a nagging wife, the relationship is usually damaged, not strengthened. Trust slowly erodes, and distance builds. He may stay in the house, but as Solomon said, life may be better for him on the roof! When we insist on nagging our men into submission, we compound minor issues with major relational problems of distance, avoidance, and eroded trust. Don’t be the nagging wife with the husband on the roof. Your neighbors will start to wonder.
Option three. Speak the truth in love. A better way to handle a relatively minor annoyance is to determine how important the issue is to you and whether it’s worth pursuing. If it is, go to your husband about it in love, explain your perspective, ask for change, and take what you get. Remember, this pertains to minor issues, not major ones. At some point, we have to accept people for who they are without demanding that they fit into the molds we create for them.
Yes, I know that lots of books out there talk about training men the way we’d train a dog. That may be clever, but it’s destructive. My advice is to begin by making your list of things he does that annoy you. Then talk to him about the first one on the list — not the top hundred, not the top ten, and not even the top two — just one. Remember, you’re not his mother; you’re his wife. He needs to feel safe with you.
When you talk to him, take any tension out by saying something like this: “I know this is not a big deal to you, and it’s not a big deal to me either, but I’d appreciate it if you’d…” If he’s defensive, his response reveals an underlying tension in the relationship that’s much more important than the annoying habit, and this tension needs to be addressed. Don’t be alarmed. This is a wonderful moment to shift gears and talk about the two of you, your trust and communication, and what you both want in the relationship.
Too many women let small disappointments escalate into demands that cause serious harm in the relationship. Keep minor things minor. Talk about them, but never ever nag your man, especially in public. He’ll feel disrespected. You’ll feel rejected. And neither of you will benefit from it. Even if you get what you want, you lose.
Copyright © by Julie Clinton. Adapted from 10 Things You Aren’t Telling Him, published by Harvest House Publishers, used with permission.